Green jobs are not the wave of the future.

By / 15th October, 2010 / Environment / No Comments

Growing green jobs

Suppose you are asked:

“Who sells more, the U.S. car industry or the American recycling industry?”

You’ll say the auto industry, and you’d be right – but surprisingly you’re not right by much. U.S. recycling sales in 2009 totaled $236 billion while auto industry sales totaled $250 billion.

As a growth industry, sales charts reveal recycling’s steady, predictable growth compared to the auto industry’s roller coaster history. It’s a less bumpy ride

Staying with our comparison, recycling will outpace auto industry sales before the end of the next decade, because of these market realities:

•  It is less costly to manufacture using recycled materials than to produce them from virgin metals, woods or plastics
•  The carbon impact of producing from recycled materials is significantly lower
Quick example: if we recycle three quarters of the aluminum cans we toss out, we reduce carbon emissions by 11.8 million metric tons compared with producing those same cans from virgin aluminum.
•  Recycling slows the depletion of Earth’s rapidly dwindling resources
•  Manufacturing from recycled materials uses considerably less precious water to make the same product, like paper for example.
But the real dynamo driving green growth has to do with what’s on everyone’s tongue this political season: jobs, jobs and jobs. In this context, the green job scene has exploded. Very quietly. 1.1 million Americans have jobs in the recycling industry, which itself is only a small part of green-related commerce.

What’s happening with green jobs gets clearer if we take a vertical micro-slice of green jobs in a single state, using Massachusetts as our example.

For the year 2009, according to the Massachusetts Recycling Coalition, 1,437 recycling and reuse firms operated in the commonwealth state. These firms produced $3.5 billion in sales, creating tons, so to speak, of jobs. They paid 19,445 workers a total $577 million in salaries.
How about tax contributions?
Glad you asked. The state collected $64 million from recycle and reuse businesses.
Peering deeper, there are four major categories within the recycling industry and if you look at the relative contribution of each to Massachusetts last year, the sectors breakout as follows:
  • Collection and reprocessing businesses had sales of $923 million and salaries of $142 million, paid to 4,642 employees.
  • Manufacturing from collected recycled raw materials employed 10,120 people with a payroll of $330 million. This sector raked in sales of over $2.1 billion.
  • Reuse and refurbishing manufacturing had sales of $342 million, employing 3,443 people and a $67 million payroll
  • Consulting, engineering, brokering and other support jobs rang up $535 million in sales and accounted for 3,397 jobs.
Multiply the Massachusetts picture by 50 states and even the most curmudgeonly green-shade legislator has to reconsider green growth legislation, if not for moral reasons then simply because green means more jobs for the state. Big time.
Visit My Green Mind for more on the politics of green.